Victimless "crimes"—acts that are presently outside the law but which have no readily identifiable victim—account for almost half of the cases handled by United States courts. They include behavior which may reflect illness and which requires medical and therapeutic attention (such as drunkenness), as well as behavior condemned as varying from moral or social standards and leading to harmful behavior (such as vagrancy and curfew violations). If the burden of regulating this type of behavior were removed from the criminal justice system, perhaps one half of the courts' current case load could be eliminated. Furthermore, persons caught in deviant conduct could receive help rather than imprisonment. The overcrowding of jails and the building of new facilities, at costs as high as $62,000 per prisoner, would be made less necessary by removing from them the thousands of prisoners who have harmed no one and stolen nothing. This article maintains that if society wishes to limit victimless behavior in order to protect persons (from the dangers of opiates, for example) the behavior should be decriminalized and subject to regulation. Laws which merely seek to regulate morals are ineffective, weaken the system of law, and ought to be repealed.
Robert C. Boruchowitz,
Victimless Crimes: A Proposal to Free the Courts, 57 JUDICATURE 69